Northern League: City draw’s not enough as gap to safety is nine points with time running out

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Durham City claimed a point against rival strugglers Newcastle Benfield on Saturday – but it’s done little to allay fears that they can stave off relegation to the Second Division.

The Citizens remain deep in trouble, third from bottom and nine points adrift of West Auckland, who are just outside the drop zone.

Chris Moore’s men demonstrated at Consett, though, that they are up for the fight.

Twice behind and trailing by two goals going into the last 22 minutes, they hit back for a 3-3 draw. Who knows, the point might save them.

Josh Scott was an early marksman for Benfield and, after Sam Norris equalised, the Citizens conceded twice in a couple of minutes to Paul Brayson and Dean Walker.

At this stage, another defeat was on the cards, but they battled back and their hopes rose in the 75th minute.

They were awarded a penalty, which Norris converted, and Benfield had Dan Taylor sent off.

Durham sensed they could take something from the game and, on 84 minutes, they were well and truly back in with a chance.

Mark Bertram’s looping header evaded Benfield’s experienced goalkeeper Andrew Grainger for the equaliser, but the 10-man visitors held on for a draw.

Right at the death, Benfield went down to nine men as Matthew Cornish was also red-carded.

Benfield are not out of the woods themselves, but a nine-point cushion should see them over the line.

No so Norton and Stockton Ancients, who look doomed despite drawing 1-1 at fellow strugglers West Auckland.

Adam Burnicle fired West into an interval lead, which they held until six minutes from time when Nicky Martin equalised.

Second-bottom Bedlington Terriers, whose fixture against Washington was one of six to be postponed, also have a lot to do if they are to retain their top-flight status.

West Allotment Celtic should survive, but they will be disappointed at letting a vital point slip from their grasp when Seaham Red Star scored a 92nd minute winner.

Liam McBryde headed in a Jack Walker cross to give Mark Collingwood, celebrating his 200th game in charge of Star, something to cheer, but Paul Kane levelled on the hour mark.

With the game drifting into added time, Craig Lynch put the smile back on Collingwood’s face when he fired past home goalkeeper Jak Wells for the winner.

Seaham are up to fifth, but whether they can hang on for a top-six finish is debatable since they have played several more games than the other contenders.

Last season, Shildon were pipped at the post for the championship, but they are red-hot favourites to make it this year.

The Railwaymen, unbeaten in the league since November, made it six wins on the bounce, defeating visitors Penrith with strikes by Billy Greulich-Smith, Lewis Wing and Anthony Bell before Kevin Connolly reduced the deficit just before the end.

Shildon are now 25 points ahead of Marske United, who have five games in hand, and they are 26 better off than Morpeth Town. The Northumbrians have played six fewer games.

Only three of the eight Second Division games went ahead, but one had a bearing on the chase for the two remaining promotion places.

Team Northumbria came out on top in the crucial top-five fixture at Billingham Synthonia where Ben Dibb-Fuller and David Dormand secured three precious points in a 2-0 win.

Team stay fifth, three points adrift of Synners with two games in hand.

Already-promoted South Shields lead the field, with Ryhope CW and Chester-le-Street second and third, respectively.

At the bottom, Stokesley SC are wooden-spoonists.

Because of a road traffic incident, the start of their fixture at Alnwick Town was delayed half an hour, but the hosts were quickly out of the blocks. Two goals inside 15 minutes from Dale Kennedy were followed by three more by Dominic Schiavetta (2) and Jordan Miller.

Daniel Jones managed a consolation for the visitors, who have taken only eight points from 38 matches.

Birtley Town and Esh Winning are fighting it out to avoid joining Stokesley in the relegation trap door, although mathematically Willington are not safe, following a 5-0 drubbing at home to Hebburn Town.

Craig Malley, with a brace, Mark Costello, Lewis Milner (og) and Kyle Morris fired the South Tynesiders to an emphatic 5-0 win.